When a principal character in Don makes a heartfelt apology to another, we see a poster in the background that says “Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit it.”
It is what the scene tries to communicate too, and it succeeds in doing that. But first-time filmmaker Cibi Chakravarthy zooms into the poster, lest we miss the message... he zooms in so much that there is no room for subtlety.
This example encapsulates the problem with the rest of the film too; it delivers its messages through hackneyed lines rather than the screenplay. Don wants to talk about two things: a) finding one’s talent in rule-ridden, needlessly stringent engineering colleges that seek to suck the fun out of its students, and b) celebrating our parents while they are still with us. Wait, how are these things even connected to each oth… let’s not get into that.
Firstly, these issues are as novel to Tamil cinema as last-over finishes are to Chennai Super Kings fans (next season, guys… there is always a next season). Engineering colleges especially get attacked like a reluctant part-time bowler. Meanwhile, the Father Sentiment, though a relatively lesser-used weapon than the Mother Sentiment, can inflict sufficient cringe.
Secondly, the screenplay does not even care much about the things the film wants to talk about. Instead, it largely fills the time with the antics of its protagonist, Chakravarthy (Sivakarthikeyan) in his battle of one-upmanship over his college principal Bhoominathan (SJ Suryah). Even this conflict is properly established only after an hour into the film. Till then, we have to sit through a slew of face-palming, groan-inducing comedy.
Samples for your perusal: a) SJ Suryah catches a couple romancing within the college. He shows a Dairy Milk Silk wrapper as an evidence to one of his assistants, Munishkanth. And, we hear S Janaki’s famous moaning sounds from ‘Nethu Rathiri Yamma’. Because Silk, ‘Silk’ Smitha… gettit? b) Sivakarthikeyan reconciles with Priyanka Arul Mohan after a conflict. He asks her out for a date. She says okay and proceeds to give him… a date fruit. <Insert straight-faced emoji>
We also get oneliners like, “Ex ku edhukku extra feelings?”, complaints about college canteen food, frustrations about ‘boy besties’... things that are supposedly the concerns of our youth. If the film contends that students in engineering colleges are facing a problem, we really don’t feel that.
Then, there is the underexplored father-son angle between Samuthirakani and Sivakarthikeyan. The film introduces Samuthirakani as an unloving dad, who seems perennially pissed off with son. He slaps his son on his first day at school. He shaves his head when the latter wants to sport a flamboyant hairstyle like his on-screen idol Rajinikanth. When the boy falls off his bicycle, he attends to the bicycle. It is an exaggerated version of how Samuthirakani behaves with Dhanush in the first half of Velai Illa Pattadhaari.
Just like in VIP, here too, he receives an outburst from his son for not being a good father. But the film, towards its end, tries to glorify this toxic parenting, showing scenes where his father suppresses his love only to not spoil his son. These father-son portions are also not well-fleshed out for a film that ends with a message about cherishing parents.
Priyanka Arul Mohan gets a heroic introduction, but largely exists in the film just to inspire the hero. The romantic sub-plot involving her and Sivakarthikeyan, too, comprises of generic scenes.
After a stoic detour in Doctor, Sivakarthikeyan is back laughing and crying, singing and dancing, and somehow makes the film bearable to an extent. Some of his scenes with SJ Suryah (whose character is also largely one-note) work well. Anirudh does musical gymnastics, trying to heavy-lift the scenes with his background score, but all these supporting elements fail to salvage a screenplay with a weak plot.
Upon entering the cinema hall for the 8 am show of this film, a fellow film-goer, who’d watched the 4 am show, offered his one-line review, unasked. “Padathula kadhai ellaam edhum illa, bro. Chumma jolly ah paakalaam.”
Well, at least one part of his review was right.
Don is currently running in theatres